Over the past couple of weeks I've had the immense pleasure of playing Balan Wonderworld. Okay, so it wasn't a pleasure and our review wasn't exactly glowing, but we have to give a notable shout out to the music, which is superbly charming in every possible way. It got me thinking about all the bad games I've dived into over the years, more notably, what I've loved about said games. Regardless of any failures, there's always something good buried within - even the truly terrible ones. Whether that be the flight system from Anthem, or that Duke Nukem Forever has a great Halo Easter Egg, there's something in every game for someone.
The worst game I've ever played is Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust. It was at a time when I was on a massive achievement binge during the Xbox 360 era and titles were quickly drying up. In a nutshell, it's a crass, exploitative game that left a sickening taste in my mouth for years to come. Even without the horrid subject material, the gameplay was near unplayable with its nauseating camera, and it was filled with dull tasks as you operated on a movie lot.
Even though I consider it the absolute worst game of all time, which has become a long running joke in my friendship circles, there are actually some elements I really loved. First of all, the thing that initially enticed me was the art style. Looking back now I think I might have had one too many or was intoxicated by the thoughts of those sweet, sweet achievements - but there was definitely something at the time that drew me in. I think it all stems from how the character models and location heavily remind me of my favourite music video of all time - Michael Jackson's 'Speed Demon'. An absolutely bonkers ten minutes which will always stay close to my heart. I'm not going to even entertain the idea that the comparison is intentional, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't resonate with me.
Not only that, but it also has some exceptional voice work. Sure, the lines they're delivering are absolute garbage, but even with the weak material, they're managing to actually infuse some energy into a lifeless game. Jeffery Tambor, most notably known for his work in Arrested Development, even lends his talents, elevating a game which should be left in the bin into something with a tiny bit of merit.
Similar to movies, games can often be so bad that they're actually good - even more so if they add the ability to take a friend along for the ride. While Resident Evil 6 isn't necessarily a terrible video game, it is an awful Resident Evil entry. While the fifth entry pushed away from survival horror, it still had its foot in the door at least, and the co-operative gameplay was a great addition. With number six, Capcom decided to take that formula, dial it up to 11 and cook everything that the franchise was built upon in the process.
But it has some great multiplayer. Fantastic, in fact. Me and my friend have fond memories diving into the four campaigns, completely lost on the direction the narrative the franchise had taken. Instead we created our own fictional narrative as to what was happening which involved us being hunted by a hulking bio-threat we had wronged in some elaborate way. It was dumb, stupid and immature, but it turned my £5 impulse buy from HMV into a couple of hilarious nights with a friend.
Other times, games have some great concepts, but fail to meet the extensive ideas they have. Homefront: The Revolution is a great example. I could never recommend that game to anyone, mainly due to the fact a game-breaking glitch halted 15 hours of progress. It was a technical mess on consoles and never truly got rectified, which is a shame as it was immensely more interesting than its predecessor. Leaving the confides of a linear narrative, the open-world environment had some great gameplay elements and RPG-lite segments which were a solid groundwork. Unfortunately, it was hindered by a lengthy list of technical issues and draped in an ugly aesthetic that you wouldn't want to spend more than five minutes in.
This is a situation Cyberpunk 2077 faces this year, as CD Projekt Red works to bring the game up to the standards it should have met at launch. Despite waves of online hate, there is good in Cyberpunk 2077. From what we've played, the narrative, mission design and world hold a lot of promise and seem to be competently made - alas, a seemingly never ending battle of technical issues are stacked against its odds which the developer has to prove it can combat. Worst case scenario, it becomes a terrible game with some good within.
Sometimes you have to dig a bit deeper, but these titles are made by real people, with passion and talent at the helm. It can be easy to jump on a game and give it all the hate which it sometimes rightfully deserves, though sometimes casting a positive light requires a lot less energy to channel. Even more so it highlights exactly what works for the team who have worked on these titles, so they can take the feedback and build that into something that can be great the next time. We can all learn something from the games we play, and sometimes it stems from the positive, rather than the negative. With the last twelve months we've all had, isn't that something to cherish?
Have any fond memories of some truly terrible video games? Let us know in the comments below.